November 5, 2012

Coughing Up Yellow or Brown Mucus? This Will Help

Filed under: cough,coughing,respiratory — Tags: coughing mucus, mucus cough, phlegm colour — drwatson @ 1:41 pm

Coughing up mucus or phlegm is fairly common. Unless it lasts a long time, we rarely pay much attention to it. But, if you cough up mucus that is colored, it might be a sign of a more serious ailment. Consult your doctor as soon as possible.

 

Why Do We Cough Up Mucus?

Phlegm or mucus is a watery, viscous substance produced by our trachea (windpipe.) It normally keeps our throat and nose lubricated

When we have an infection or some type of disorder, mucus starts getting thicker and accumulating in our throat. This irritates the windpipe and causes us to cough to get rid of it.

We normally start coughing up clear phlegm if we have some small health ailment. Clear mucus means that there is no pus.

Once your mucus turn yellow, green or brown, you probably have a more serious problem and should see your doctor. Your doctor will be able to tell you if your yellow, green or brown mucus is caused by an infection, smoking, or air pollution.

 

Coughing Up Yellow Mucus

There is a range of conditions that can turn your mucus yellow:

  • The common cold
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Tuberculosis
  • Allergies
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Smoking

Any of these conditions can cause an inflammation of your respiratory tract. Inflammation leads to an accumulation of white blood cells in your mucus. That’s what turns it yellow.

If you tell your doctor that you are coughing up yellow mucus, he will most likely tell you that you have an infection and will give you antibiotics. The problem with that is that viral infection like common cold cannot be treated with antibiotics.

If you are coughing up yellow mucus, look for other symptoms to find out what might be causing it. The best option is to talk to your doctor and let the experts give their opinion.

 

Coughing Up Brown Mucus

If you are a smoker, coughing up brown mucus should be familiar to you. It could even be part of your morning routine.
Heavy air pollution can also cause your mucus to turn brownish.
Bacterial infections often cause mucus to turn greenish-brown.
But, mucus might look brown if it contains blood particles.
In any case, unless you are a smoker, if you are coughing brown mucus, go see your doctor. Blood in mucus is a sign of a serious lung infection.
The only way to get rid of yellow or brown mucus is to cure the underlying cause. Once your doctor gives you a proper diagnosis and the right treatment, it should only be a matter of time until you feel better.

September 11, 2012

What is a Sneeze?

Filed under: flu,respiratory — drwatson @ 8:55 am

A sneeze is one of the fastest reflexes the human body has. Everyone sneezes, but not many people know what makes you sneeze or what causes sneezing.

In scientific terms, a sneeze is a “sudden, spasmodic expulsion of air from the lungs, which finds freedom through the nose and mouth.”

Did that clear things up? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Definitions like that are great for doctors, but not-so-great for blogs.

What Causes Sneezing?

A sneeze can be caused by several different factors, most of which are environmental.

The main thing that causes sneezing is a foreign particle trying to enter the body through the nasal cavity. Other common triggers are looking into the sun or another bright light, having a full stomach, or having a viral infection. A sneeze can also be a symptom of nasal congestion or allergies.

Sneezing from the sun or a bright light is known as a Photic Sneeze Reflex. Not everyone does this, but it’s fairly common.

A rarer condition is sneezing due to a full stomach.  This is a disorder called snatiation and is hereditary.

When sneezing is a symptom of allergies or nasal congestion, the cause is most often something in your environment.  Certain particles in the air, called allergens, can aggravate the nasal mucosa. And that causes a sneeze!

Unfortunately there isn’t a cure for sneezing, but the frequency of sneezing can be dramatically decreased simply by controlling the allergens in your house and workplace.

What Makes You Sneeze?

A sneeze happens when particles make it past the nasal cavity hairs and into the nasal mucosa. This triggers the release of the hormone histamine, which then stimulates the nerves in the nasal cavity. These nerves send messages to the brain to initiate a sneeze.

The brain then tells the muscles of the trachea and pharynx to activate. These muscles force the mouth open and expel the air and particles out through the nose and mouth.

All of that can take less than one second.

What is a Sneeze Supposed to Do?

Sneezing is a very important immune response that clears up any harmful bacteria or pathogens from your nasal cavity.

But while it’s great for your immune system, it is not so great for everyone else’s.

Sneezing without proper hygiene can spread harmful pathogens that may infect others. The safest way to sneeze is: cover your mouth and nose with the bend of your arm, then turn away from objects or other people.

Using your hand isn’t enough. Hands are used to open doors and pass things to others. Sneeze into your hand and you’ll be passing bacteria too.

What to Do about Sneezing?

If allergens, rather than pathogens (germs) are making you sneeze, there really is no cure.

However, there are several things you can do to be less miserable (if you don’t like sneezing). The use of over-the-counter allergy medicines is the most common solution, but there are also several preventive measures you can take. Frequent dusting and vacuuming, changing air filters regularly and using a HEPA filter can all reduce allergy symptoms and frequent sneezing.

Sneezing can be annoying, but it’s a natural reaction meant to protect you. If you can determine what makes you sneeze, though, you can most likely do something to something to alleviate the problem.

August 20, 2012

Guide to Phlegm Color Meaning

Filed under: cough,coughing,respiratory — drwatson @ 9:10 am

 Everyone produces mucous on a daily basis. It lines the nose, mouth, sinus cavities, throat, lungs and gastrointestinal tract.

The purpose of mucous is to keep this tract lubricated so it doesn’t crack and dry out. However, it also serves to catch allergens, bacteria and other unwanted substances from entering your body.

This guide to phlegm color meaning can help you find out what’s happening inside your body so you can protect yourself and stay healthy.

What Yellow Phlegm Means

If you find that your phlegm color is yellow, it could just be from breathing in dry air. However, it could also mean that you have a viral cold in your upper respiratory tract.

Since antibiotics don’t help viral infections, your best course of action is to just wait it out. Usually these types of colds will run their course within a few days. In the meantime, drink plenty of fluids and use a humidifier if your nose feels dry.

What Dark Yellow Phlegm Means

A darker color yellow usually means that you have an infection in either your sinus cavity or your lower respiratory tract.

If the infection hasn’t run its course within a few days and you have accompanying symptoms such as coughing and chest congestion then it is likely you have a bacterial infection such as sinusitis, bronchitis, or bacterial pneumonia.

At this point you should visit your doctor and see if you need an antibiotic for treatment.

What Green Phlegm Means

Green phlegm is actually green because of white blood cells, and not the bacteria itself.

As a reaction to an infection, your body sends white blood cells to the area to fight off infection. An enzyme found in white blood cells, called MPO, has a green pigment which tints the phlegm color green.

Since bacteria attract more white blood cells than a virus does, green phlegm is often indicative of a bacterial infection. Because it is likely bacterial and not viral, if green phlegm still persists after a few days and you have other symptoms such as coughing, fever or sinus pressure, talk to your doctor to see if you need an antibiotic. Otherwise, the infection can continue to get worse.

What Brown or Gray Phlegm Means

If you are producing phlegm colours brown or gray, it is probably your body’s way of trying to expel foreign substances: tar, resins, smog or dust.

If you smoke cigars or cigarettes, or chew tobacco, then this is likely the cause of your brown phlegm.

How do you solve it? Stop putting foreign substances into your body.

You could also have brown or gray phlegm if you were inhaling heavy smoke, smog or dust. If this is the case, try staying in an area with fresh, clean air and drink plenty of fluids until these substances are fully expelled from your body.

What Red Phlegm Means

If you see a red tint to your phlegm it means that you are bleeding somewhere.

This could be something minor such as irritation in your nose or a cut in your mouth. Check these options first. However, if you don’t see the source of the bleeding it could be an injury lower in your tract or even a tuberculosis infection. If this is the case, you should call your doctor immediately.

August 7, 2012

Does Vicks Vaporub Work?

Filed under: cough,coughing,respiratory — drwatson @ 4:15 pm

Does Vick’s VapoRub work? The short answer: no one really knows.

In a study of 144 children conducted from 2008 to 2010, it was revealed that vapor medicines like Vick’s VapoRub help to alleviate the symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection (URI). How it does that, exactly, is still up for debate.

The VapoRub Test

Doctors tested whether a bedtime application of a product containing camphor to the chest of a child would result in parental reports of improvement of the child’s symptoms, as well as improved child sleep.

Tested also was parental sleep, with applications being given to the parents.

The findings were significant. The treatment group tested better than the no-treatment group.

But… Does It Work?

Researchers have theorized as to why the camphor might improve symptoms, including the (perceived) sensation of improved airflow.

(Researchers emphasized, with very good cause, that both parent and child slept better.)

In fact, the researchers went as far as to suggest that the improvement in symptoms may be entirely the result of perception or placebo effect. Whatever the reason, Vicks VapoRub appears to offer a possible intervention for children and parents suffering the effects of upper respiratory tract infection.

In the case of a mother using a product such as Vick’s Vapor Rub during pregnancy there is nothing to suggest that VR rubs would be harmful to an unborn child. The three main ingredients, menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor, are safe during pregnancy.

The application of Vick’s Vapor Rub on feet is another possible example of placebo effect. There have been no official studies conducted (at time of writing) to demonstrate the effectiveness of this foot-based approach. Still, there is a litany of personal testimonials and ringing endorsements asserting the legitimacy of vapor rubs on the feet used to treat chest congestion.

What Else Can VapoRub Do?

The uses for VR formulas vary beyond what has been mentioned so far, including use for dry skin, tension headaches, eczema, counteracting asthma triggers, toenail fungus, and tennis elbow.

The vapor formulas and applications themselves vary considerably as well. Next time you pull out the VapoRub, try one of these suggestions in a humidifier for the same type of nasal-clearing effects:

  • White Camphor oil. (the active ingredient in Vick’s VapoRub)
  • Eucalyptus oil. (another ingredient great for clearing congestion and asthma)
  • Lavender oil (even gentler on infants)

Be it through public trial or scientific study, the signs seem to be indicating that Vicks VapoRub is a viable treatment for both children and adults suffering from URI. As science progresses, doctors will hopefully have a better understanding of how the exact mechanism responsible behaves.

November 15, 2011

The Uses For Vick’s Vapor Rub

Filed under: breathing,cough,respiratory — Tags: uses for vapor rub, Vapor rub, vapor rub on feet, vapor rub uses — drwatson @ 6:18 pm

Does Vick's Vapor Rub Actually Work

How does Vapor Rub work?

The short answer: the research is still not clear. A study of 144 children conducted  in 2008-2010, published in Pediatrics (2011) revealed that petrolatum-based vapor medicines like Vick’s Vapor Rub helps to alleviate the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (URI.) The exact mechanism for achieving this, however, remains unknown.

Doctors tested whether a bedtime application of a petrolatum product containing camphor – vapor rub (VR) – to the chest of a child would result in parental reports of improvement of the child’s symptoms, as well as improved child sleep. Tested also was parental sleep, with applications of the VR being given to the parents. The findings were significant; the VR group tested better for symptoms than the no-treatment group, and also, for the non-VR, petrolatum group.

Researchers have theorized as to why the camphor might improve symptoms, including the (perceived) sensation of improved airflow.   In fact, finding no discernible causal link, the researchers go so far as to suggest that the improvement in symptoms may be entirely the result of perception or placebo effect. Whatever the reason, VR rubs appear to offer a possible intervention for children and parents suffering the effects of upper respiratory tract infection.

Can you use Vick’s Vapor Rub When Pregnant?

In the case of a mother using a product such as Vick’s Vapor Rub during pregnancy there is nothing to suggest that VR rubs would be harmful to an unborn child. The three main ingredients, menthol, eucalyptus, and camphor, are safe during pregnancy.

I heard you could use Vick’s Vapor Rub on Feet?

The application of Vick’s Vapor Rub on feet is another possible example of the aforementioned placebo effect. There have been no official studies conducted (yet) to demonstrate the effectiveness of this foot-based approach; Snopes , Detective Skeptic , and other fact-finding websites have all produced articles to this point, addressing the litany of personal testimonials and ringing endorsements. That is, the public continues to assert the legitimacy of vapor rubs on the feet used to treat chest congestion and other ailments.

Uses for Vapor Rub

The uses for VR formulas vary beyond what has been mentioned so far, including use for dry skin, tension headaches , eczema, counteracting asthma triggers , toenail fungus, and tennis elbow. The vapor formulas and applications themselves vary considerably as well. For example, next time before using a vapor rub, try one of these suggestions in a humidifier for the same type of nasal-clearing effects:

  • White Camphor (the active ingredient in Vick’s Vapor Rub) oil.
  • Eucalyptus oil, another ingredient, is great for clearing congestion and asthma.
  • Lavender oil achieves the same effects, but is even gentler on infants, and works for asthma too.

Be it through public trial, or scientific study, the signs seem to be indicating that the traditional vapor rub formula(s) are viable treatments for both children and adults suffering from URI. As the science progresses doctors will hopefully have a better understanding of how the exact mechanism responsible behaves.

September 21, 2009

The Danger of Asthma

In 2006 approximately 22.9 million Americans reported having an asthma attack. The reality is that asthma is very serious and can change the way a person lives. There are many misconceptions of asthma, like if you didn’t get it when you were a child then you’ll never get it. Well you couldn’t be more wrong. Asthma can present itself in almost anyone, at almost any age. In fact, the same study in 2006 showed that out of the 22.9 million Americans that reported having an asthma attack, 2.5 million of them were over the age of 65!

Furthermore, many people don’t realize what asthma really is. Most people that have heard of asthma know that it effects breathing, but what they don’t know is that asthma causes the tubes that allow air to travel in and out to become inflamed. That is why asthma can become so dangerous. Without treatment asthma can be life threatening however, fortunately for us there are many forms of treatment available. Most treatment methods feature an inhaler that is used when an asthma attack occurs.

For those that are wondering if they should be checked for asthma, some common symptoms include:

  • A wheezing sound when you breathe. This may only occur when you are suffering from a cold.
  • Cough. You may cough up mucus. The cough often comes back and it may last more than a week.
  • Shortness of breath. You may have difficulty breathing only now and then, or you may have problems quite often. It feels as if you can’t get enough air into your lungs.
  • Chest tightness. Your chest may feel tight in cold weather or during exercise. Chest tightness may be one of the first signs that your asthma is getting worse.


Although scientists do not know for sure what causes asthma they are aware of some things that can contribute to reoccurring asthma attacks or asthma in adults.

  • Medications
  • Air Pollution
  • Allergies
  • Genetic

Information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of advice from your practitioner.

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